Close Reading Murs and 9th Wonder's "Asian Girl"

April 21, 2010


Blog Editors' Note: Maybe it's an off-shoot of Spring Fever, but the Hyphen blog is being fruitful and multiplying...

Lately we've been lucky enough to add more talented bloggers to our roster, writers like Theresa Celebran Jones. Repping Connecticut, feminist mama Theresa has been frequently published in
Thirteen Minutes Magazine where she stayed abreast of Asian American entertainment happenings by interviewing the likes of Sung Kang, Brian Tee, and Far East Movement. She has been blogging extensively for the past years, particularly at her personal site single spaced.

Her inaugural Hyphen blog post tackles MURS and 9th Wonder's new cut "Asian Girl" and "the fine line between admiration and fetish" in a complex hip hop world.

Welcome, Theresa!


The other day my husband came home with the latest Murs/9th Wonder collaboration album, Fornever. We've been longtime fans of both artists and, unsurprisingly, found most of the album really enjoyable. The only outlier? A cut titled "Asian Girl."

Murs drops the following lines in the second verse: "I got a chick from Vietnam with the feminine fat [... ] She exotic but she hate it when I call her that / I say 'Ni hao' and she know she got to holla back / That's Korean, no duh / My chick from Vietnam be servin' me pho."

I'm confused by this. My first instinct was to get really pissed -- a common reaction I've seen to this song among Asian American hip hop heads around the net. On a second or third listen, I'm wondering if he's just trying to be funny. Who doesn't know that "Ni hao" isn't Korean? If Murs can pronounce pho, Hmong, and Pinay correctly, then this has got to be a joke. This is an artist who recorded tribute albums to Lisa Bonet, Christina Ricci and Rosie Perez in the past five years, so it's hard to take him too seriously.

Still, the intent is clear -- apparently nobody in hip hop shows us Asian girls any love, and this song aims to fill that void. There's just a fine line between admiration and fetish.

We've mostly given Jin a pass to capitalize on Asian female stereotypes in at least two songs -- his remix to Jay-Z's "Girls, Girls, Girls" similarly titled "Asian Girls," and "36-24-36." I suppose, as an Asian American himself, he's merely objectifying women, which is largely considered a more forgivable offense -- at least in hip hop -- than fetishizing. But this cut from Murs and 9th is different. Are they allowed to do the same thing, and should we be allowed to just let this one go? If their only offense here is writing a weak song that objectifies women, well, welcome to rap music where there are bigger fish to fry.

I've seen almost no criticism of this on the hip hop blog circuit, save for the comments section from this 2dopeboyz post. Don't get me wrong, I've been a fan of Justus League and Living Legends for a long time which is why I'm searching for reasons to let this go, but I'm taken aback by the gusto with which hip hop tastemakers are co-signing this particular song. Not only is the content uninspired and highly questionable, but it's also one of the weaker cuts on the album. Even "I Used to Love H.E.R. (Again)" -- a complete reinterpretation of the Common Sense classic -- sounds more impassioned and inspired.

Am I being too sensitive or too dismissive? Can it be argued that this song is just tacky but not actually fetishist, since Murs and 9th don't actually employ the old "Asian girls are submissive" or "Me love you long time" stereotypes? Can we ignore this one slip and go on guiltlessly enjoying their work?


Theresa Celebran Jones


Theresa Celebran Jones was born and raised in Connecticut and has moved cross-country four times. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two young daughters. She works full-time as a technical writer and is an MFA dropout. Her only other hobbies are reading, taking pictures, scrapbooking, and listening to hip hop. Clearly she has no social life.



there must be something tongue-in-cheek about it.  i think a song that took its fetish seriously would address something about asian girls being sweet and submissive (and how "his" asian girl were no different than all the others).  as a song though it's not a very good one... the pho mention impresses me.  "step your noodle game up!" hahaa
If this "Asian Girl" song were sung by White guys, would it be given the same free pass that it is given now? Better yet, if there were a song titled "Black Girl" with lyrics about about a "chick from the hood ... servin' me watermelon and grits" sung by say, Asian Americans, would there be the same deafening silence about its content? I don't think so. The bottom line is that, in America, Orientalist racism/sexism towards Asian people is acceptable, normalized, and indeed a celebrated part of American "culture." And "people of color" like Blacks can be just as guilty as Whites in perpetuating it. And this situation will continue until Asian Americans develop the political will to confront the people responsible for this shit--Black, White, or whomever.

I'm a black male and I'm an avid listener of underground hiphop like so many others.  When I first heard "Asian Girl" I loved it.  I didnt hear anything that was offensive and I must say that asian women ARE some of the most beautiful women on the planet.  With that being said... like the previous person above me stated...if some asian cats made a song called "Black Girl" I would ALSO enjoy it...granted the beat is dope and the lyrics are decent.  Now being offended would all depend on the lyrics that are written.  And yes if they had lines like "watermelon and grits" I'd instantly become an "EX-Fan" of the artists.  But if asian artists spit the exact same lyrics I also imagine that it would'nt be so offensive to asian people.  Kinda like "your own...talking about...your own".  It's better accepted.  Like a black person saying something like "ignorant nigga"...I wouldnt really care too much.  Now someone of another race saying..."ignorant nigga" cant help but be offended by that.  It becomes offensive because it's someone "other than your own race" saying these things.

Being asian myself i found this hilarious, because Murs is so damn good at painting an accurate picture of whatever he wants. I really don't feel the song is offensive in the least bit, i mean if he actually knows enough about asian culture to be able to pronounce those words right im sure its not an ellaborate joke check out his song "Better than the best" one of the lyrics is "Blonde girls, Black girls, Asian girls, whatever. I never met a girl that I didn't like ever." That to me does not sound like an MC who has a weird fetish, the man just loves beautiful women plain and simple. And at the heart of it the song is a shoutout to all those beautiful asian women.

Seems the Author is looking for a reason to be offended. The idea and concept of the song was 9th Wonders idea. MURS covers this topic in a couple interviews regarding the song, and the process of how the album was produced. MURS raps about Women in a lot of his songs. Perhaps young Asians who are NEW to Hip-Hop and do not know its history, should probably go back and check for songs like "Black Korea" by Ice Cube, and then we can talk about offensive lyrics. It's sad that young Asian Women of today look for any reason to call "Fetish" when any Man other than one of Asian descent, shows interest in them. Liking a certain ethnicity of Women is not a fetish. A Fetish, or rather sexual fetishism, is a sexual attraction to objects, body parts, or situations not conventionally viewed as being sexual in nature. To answer your question, yes you are being way too sensitive and a little petty. Perhaps try being a little more creative with your writing and topics. Real Talk